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“Nirbhaya – progress is a work in process”
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“Nirbhaya – progress is a work in process”

Five years after a rape case that shook society in India and made headlines around the world, Shiboni D’Souza, 23, a Correspondent from Bangalore in India, looks at the changes in law and public perception that have evolved since the horrendous attack on a woman now known as “Nirbhaya”.

It has been almost five years since the tragedy that shook our nation on that cold December night. Five years to get justice for the parents who lost their daughter to what can only be described as darkness and evil on that unfortunate night. Since then, there has been a perceptible change in the attitude of the public at large around women’s rights.

The first step towards solving any problem is acknowledging that there is a one. That is exactly what happened after this devastating incident. Since the law in India dictates that a rape victim’s name cannot be published, she was given the name ’Nirbhaya’, meaning “fearless”, for use in the media. I suppose the goal should be that everyone be able to walk late at night, regardless of gender. Anyone should be able to pursue and excel at what they want, regardless of gender.

There were many reminders even immediately after this event that demonstrated for us how deeply ingrained sexism is in our society. Comments by people who are leaders are discouraging to hear; however, the police, media, and many citizens learnt overnight how to handle and be examples for justice. It is unfortunate that a young person full of hope and potential had to be the martyr for people to take action.

Since this event, there has been more discussion about rape, women’s safety and gender equality in the country. It is disheartening to know that we needed such a travesty to happen to enlighten us about what an all-pervasive problem gender inequality plays in our society. However, it cannot be denied that since this event, the government, public and citizens at large have made constructive steps in the direction of improving safety and opening up discussions about what was considered a taboo subject.

In the days that followed the incident, protests were staged all across the country and internationally. What is encouraging about these protests is the presence of women and men of all ages and backgrounds, clearly all shaken and demanding reprimands for the inherent injustice that was suddenly apparent for all to see.

Out of the five accused of rape, one died in police custody, four were awarded the death sentence and the single juvenile was given the maximum sentence of three years. The latter brought about grave disappointment in the country, after reports emerged that the crimes of the juvenile accused were most heinous.

In 2015, the Rajya Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice Bill, which proposed that the accused of age 16 and above will be treated as adults in grave crimes. This was seen as a major step in bringing about change. The government passed several other laws increasing the severity of punishment in these cases.

Since this incident, there has been evidence to prove that victim blaming has reduced, more women are reporting cases of rape, and cases are being fast tracked by the courts.

These are the first steps in the long road towards progress. After all, progress is a work in progress and we are on the right path.

photo credit: ramesh_lalwani Protester Posters and Candles seeking Justice for Gang rape Victim-015 via photopin (license)

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About me: My passion is writing. My love for reading started in third grade with the Harry Potter series. I was in the founding team of TEDxBMSCE (https://www.ted.com/tedx/events/18607) and was on the core committee of our college’s national level technical fest. I have also been involved in a major college fest in Karnataka. I am an Industrial Engineering Management graduate now working as a business analyst.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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